Monday, 26 September 2016

The Magnificent Seven

By Angie Raphael

This remake is basically a straight-up western of yesteryear with modern cinematography. The film centres around seven gunmen who are gradually assembled by ringleader Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) to help a poor town against the villainous Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). The team of unlikely heroes includes card trickster Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), Mexican tough guy Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), former Civil War shooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), Asian knife-throwing expert Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) and exiled Comanche Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). The film by director Antoine Fuqua is fairly good, but probably unnecessary. I cannot accept remaking a film for modern audiences who refuse to watch the classics. Besides, John Sturges' well-known 1960 film is already an adaptation of The Seven Samurai from 1954. What works in The Magnificent Seven's favour is the talented and multicultural cast. It is also the final film for composer James Horner, who wrote seven pieces before his death. But overall, The Magnificent Seven is drawn-out and predictable. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2016


By Angie Raphael

If you never paid much attention to Edward Snowden in the media and you missed the documentary Citizenfour, the film Snowden is a good dramatisation of his story with the basic information covered. Told through a series of flashbacks but rooted in June 2013, the protagonist (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is staying in a Hong Kong hotel where he shares thousands of classified NSA documents with journalists Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo), Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Ewen MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson). Director and co-writer Oliver Stone portrays Snowden as a little too noble and good to be true. It is still a work of fiction based on a true story, so it does not have to be objective, but some balance would have made Snowden a fuller film. Gordon-Levitt gives an understated performance, while the supporting cast is very good including Rhys Ifans, Timothy Olyphant and Nicolas Cage. Unfortunately, Gordon-Levitt's chemistry with Shailene Woodley, who plays Snowden's girlfriend, feels forced. The real Snowden's appearance at the end shows his endorsement, but the film is a little too long with a running time of about two hours and 15 minutes. Nonetheless, if people are not freaked out enough about personal security, Snowden serves as a stark reminder. 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Spin Out

By Angie Raphael

While films like The Castle epitomise many of the things we love about Australia, Spin Out seems to focus on aspects of our binge-drinking, bogan culture that many of us would perhaps rather ignore and the results are somewhat embarrassing. Spin Out centres around the annual Bachelors and Spinsters party in a country town and how the various young people interact with each other. Some of the sub-plots are mildly entertaining, including the main romantic storyline involving Billy (Xavier Samuel) and Lucy (Morgan Griffin) who are best friends unable to express their true feelings for each other. But the film, written by Edwina Exton and Tim Ferguson, and directed by Ferguson with Marc Gracie, has a predictable plot and very few laughs for a comedy. It relies heavily on stereotypes, has too many cringeworthy moments and some eye-rolling dialogue. I want to encourage people to see Australian films, but unfortunately this is not one worth recommending. 

Thursday, 8 September 2016


By Angie Raphael

Most people will remember the day in 2009 when a bird strike forced a plane to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River in New York. It was amazing none of the 155 people onboard died, and the captain was hailed a hero by the passengers and media. But he still had to face a gruelling investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board amid claims he should have returned the plane safely to LaGuardia Airport. It is that issue, which Sully explores in an adaptation of the captain's autobiography. Tom Hanks plays Chesley Sullenberger convincingly and Aaron Eckhart is also very good as his co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles. However, writer Todd Komarnicki produced a messy narrative structure and it affected the momentum. Just when the action picks up, the film suddenly goes to a flashback. An experienced director like Clint Eastwood should know better about keeping the flow going. There are also a couple of insensitive moments when Sully has nightmares and visions of a plane crashing into buildings. The September 11 terrorist attacks may have been 15 years ago, but it hardly seems necessary to include scenes like this just to make the point that Sully is haunted by what happened on the Hudson River. Nonetheless, it is great to see a film depict a victorious story about a plane's emergency landing and the power of community spirit.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Bridget Jones's Baby

By Dr Jackie Raphael

The much-loved Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) returns to our lives with the third instalment in the franchise. This time, she is pregnant but is unsure who the father is after a week of debauchery. While Bridget Jones's Baby has several nods to the previous films, it still brings an original plot and fresh laughs. Of course, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) is by her side and a wonderful new addition is brought to the story - Jack, who is played by the charming Patrick Dempsey. No matter how much you may love Darcy, Jack makes a formidable romantic opponent, as they battle for Bridget's affection. The film also works Hugh Grant's rakish Daniel into the story in a clever way. The chemistry between the cast members is fantastic. Fans of the original film will certainly enjoy seeing Bridget onscreen again. 

Monday, 5 September 2016

The Confirmation

By Angie Raphael 

Beautiful in its simplicity, The Confirmation is a sweet story about the important relationship between a father and son. Eight-year-old Anthony (Jaeden Lieberher) is spending the weekend with his alcoholic carpenter dad Walt (Clive Owen) while his mom Bonnie (Maria Bello) goes on a Catholic retreat with her new husband. But things go off to a bad start when Walt is given an eviction notice and his toolbox is stolen, which he needs for his next job to pay his rent. So the pair spend the weekend trying to find out who might have stolen his tools. The film is poignant but also very funny. Anthony is a good boy suddenly exposed to violence, guns and drugs during his bizarre weekend with his father. But along the way, the protagonists bond in an important way. Lieberher is an impressive young actor, building quite a resume for himself after appearances in films such as Midnight Special and St Vincent. Owen is always great to watch and the pair work well together. Patton Oswalt also has a fun role as meth user and thief Drake, who contributes to the pair's wild misadventures. Writer/director Bob Nelson, who wrote the acclaimed 2013 film Nebraska, has made an endearing film with some memorable performances.